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Zen & The Art of Diffusing Conflict January 14, 2011

Posted by nrhatch in Humor, Mindfulness, People.

Winning arguments is like playing chess.  Often, the best defense is a good offense.

However, life is not a chess game and we are not just players on a board.

We are living, breathing beings who need strong relationships with each other to thrive.

Practicing the art of diffusing conflict allows us to end an argument before it begins, or at least before it develops the momentum of a speeding locomotive racing down a steep incline.

We See The World Behind Our Eyes.

Your best friend has just accused you of not understanding him.

Surprised, you look up from the TV, blink in confusion, and think, “where did that come from?”

Don’t worry too much about why he threw down the gauntlet, it’s there.  The “what is, is.”  Don’t ask him to defend his position, unless you want to spend the next few hours engaged in battle, a lose-lose proposition at best.

Don’t go on the offensive:  “No one  understands you.  You’re insane!”

Accept his point of view.  He’s expressing an opinion.  Acknowledge it.

“You know, from your perspective, I can see why you would say that.”

Each of us experiences life uniquely.  Your efforts to understand his truth, no matter how sincere, are only that ~ they are not the truth.

Once his concerns have been heard, he may realize you understand him better than he thought.

Conflict Is Inevitable, Arguments Are Optional.

170px-PuckCoverYour wife has just stormed out of the bathroom holding an empty roll of toilet paper in her hands, screaming obscenities that would make a drunken sailor blush.

Hands on hips, she stands defiantly between you and the television screen, and slowly, with emphasis, demands that you explain, once and for all, why you have such a hard time remembering to change the roll of toilet paper when you are  ALWAYS the last one to finish the roll due to your proclivity for eating Ass-Bangin’ Chili every GD night of the week!

Before you reach for the volume control in a futile (and perhaps fatal) effort to drown her out, try the following:

Don’t worry about why she is so enraged ~ after a day full of frustrations, you are just the proverbial straw on an already overloaded camel.

Don’t ask her to substantiate her claims (unless you can prove “beyond a reasonable doubt” that you are innocent of the alleged offense).

If  you have a surveillance video that shows that one of the kids finished the roll, and (better still) left the bathroom without washing his or her hands, by all means, share it (and some much needed laughter) with  your spouse.

Humor is a great tool for diffusing conflict.

Absent evidence of malfeasance by the kids, or that the cat dragged off the end of the roll to use in the litter box, don’t attempt to defend your position.

Now is not the time to point out the one time, six months ago, when your wife was late for a meeting with her supervisor’s supervisor, and she forgot to change the roll before rushing out of the apartment to hail a cab.

Instead, accept her point of view, “You’re got a point.  Not replacing the roll is  inconsiderate.  I’ll do better next time.”

Your calm acceptance of her concerns will prompt her to realize that finding an empty toilet paper roll is not really what’s upsetting her.

If she doesn’t reach that conclusion herself, you might gently steer her in that direction.  Gently is the key word here.  Try asking her about her day, her family,  or anything else that’s weighing her down.

As her perspective shifts, she’ll remember that you are not the enemy, you are her ally against the maddening crowd.

In many cases, the best way to avoid an argument is to listen.

Quote:  Prefer peace and happiness to being right.

No rules.  Just write!

Related posts:  Way of the Peaceful Warrior * Spiritual Milestones * Awakening To The Sacred


1. Carol Ann Hoel - January 14, 2011

Great post, Nancy. Good advice. Blessed are the peacemakers…

nrhatch - January 14, 2011

Thanks, Carol Ann. Diffusing conflict is a pathway to peace. 🙂

2. Paula Tohline Calhoun - January 14, 2011

Conflict? What conflict? BTW, the TP should dispense UNDER the roll and not OVER the roll! How many times do I have to tell you???????


nrhatch - January 14, 2011

From your perspective, I can see why you would say that. 😉

And . . . I agree with you 100%.

kateshrewsday - January 15, 2011

This is irrelevant, but I can never stop talking even in print: I found some santa’s reindeer paper with print on it which scientifically and mathematically proves Paula’s point.
I almost blogged about it.
I am very sad.

nrhatch - January 15, 2011

I’m waiting for a post from Kate that is captioned . . . Toilet Paper. 😉

3. Cindy - January 14, 2011

Ah, just pick your battles wisely is what I say.
LMAO @Paula!

nrhatch - January 14, 2011

I concur. On both counts. 🙂

4. andalibmarks - January 15, 2011

Hmm, yes. Controlling the anger – diffusing the conflict – keeping the monster at bay…

The key (I have found to this) is – breathing.

Deep, controlled 5 second breaths in through the nose and then fast, let ’em rip 3 second bursts out through the mouth.
All while thinking ‘There’s no place like home. There’s no place like home.’ as the thought of grievous bodily harm flashes through your mind.

OK, seriously now, I think it’s also about thinking before you speak. Instead of lashing back – think for a second and then calmly respond.

I know, right. Easier said than done!!
Well, in my case anyway!!

Loved the post Nancy!


nrhatch - January 15, 2011

Thanks, Andi! Breathing is a great way to take a breather. 🙂

In my younger years, my blood boiled at a much lower temp. ~ and I felt inclined to defend my Ego from any and all attacks. “What do YOU mean by that . . . ?”

These days, not so much. When someone gets “in my face” about something that is more about who they are than who I am, I think, “Wow, look at all the energy they are wasting being mad at me about nothing.”

Then, I just smile and wave, boys, smile and wave. 🙂

poeticinteraction - January 15, 2011

You did not smile and wave and me, which is quite alright. You’re forgiven.

nrhatch - January 15, 2011

“You know, from your perspective, I can see why you would say that.” 😉

When we accept ourselves as we are, we become more accepting of others as they are.

As a result, there is less need to forgive others after the fact, because they haven’t stepped on our toes or ruffled our feathers in the first place.

5. kateshrewsday - January 15, 2011

Your timing is uncanny as usual, Nancy. Conflict is important like lightening and storms are to the chemical balance of our sphere. But oh, it hurts! My husband handled a piece of test-rage from me yesterday with expert empathy: it has left me feeling humble…

nrhatch - January 15, 2011

Conflict is inevitable . . . but we need not rush to take offense every time someone looks at us the “wrong way.” 🙂

Glad that your husband demonstrated such expert empathy ~ it’s easier for me to maintain my equilibrium if I’m well rested and in a good humor at the outset.

6. Paula Tohline Calhoun - January 16, 2011

It is usually hard for me to admit that I am completely in the dark about a comment, but Kate’s comment in which my name appears along with the fact that I am proved scientifically and mathematically correct by the use of santa’s reindeer paper. And what, pray tell, Nancy, does any of that have to do with captioned toilet paper? I think I am losing my mind. . .

Nope, I lost someone else’s this time. I lost my own years ago.

Paula Tohline Calhoun - January 16, 2011

If you can understand that comment, will you please tell me what I just wrote?

nrhatch - January 16, 2011

I believe that Kate found some wrapping paper showing that rolls of toilet paper should be dispensed from the bottom, not the top.

She felt that supported your side of the “conflict.” Only there was no “conflict” because you and I were already in complete agreement on the proper way to hang TP.

She is very sad because the post about the paper would have been a terrific Holiday piece, with less relevance at other times of the year.

Kate . . . please correct me in any and all respects. 🙂

Paula Tohline Calhoun - January 16, 2011

WAIT!! I think I get it! The paper she was referring to was a roll of TP, which could only be read if you dispensed it “over the roll.” OHHH. Now I see. Funny, we both saw wrapping paper, except I still don’t get the Santa Reindeer part. . .:-D

nrhatch - January 16, 2011

I think that the TP was decorated with Santa’s Reindeer which, as you’ve surmised, could only be seen if the roll dispensed in the “right” way.

Initially, I assumed that she meant a roll of TP, but reconsidered when typing the explanation this morning. 😉


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